Tag Archives: Health

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Chapter / Rule 8 - Learn to read food labels so you know what you are eating

I'm all for knowing what you're eating.  Obviously if you're looking to lose weight, having an idea of how many calories you're getting, or how much protein you've had is very important information.  And if you're feeling extra frisky, knowing that you're getting the Recommended Dietary Allowance of essential vitamins and minerals is pretty swell.  (I'll admit though, I don't do that last one at all.)

So, at first anyway, it seems me and Harper agree.  Knowing how to read a food label can be a helpful tool to keeping your weight in your control.  However, I apparently have a lot more faith in humanity in general to figure out how to read nutrition labels that Harper says are:

"frequently confusing - graphically busy, laden with irrelevant claims and detail, sometimes almost impossible to find on the container."

Yeah, just look at all those graphics and irrelevant claims.

Also containers are typically only so big.  I'm not sure how it could ever be tough for someone to find a nutrition label on it if it has one.  I'm envisioning something like a black-and-white scene in an infomercial for a useless product of someone having way too hard a time doing a mundane activity.  

Anyway, Harper then goes on to cite a couple studies about how people who read nutrition labels eat more fiber and nutrients and less calories and blah blah blah blah correlation without causation people who read nutrition labels are more likely to be concerned about their health and make better food choices etc etc etc.

Let's take a look at what Harper says are the "absolutely fundamental" things to understand when reading labels:

Serving Size / Number of Servings 

I definitely agree with this.  I can't tell how many times I read the calories on an item and thought "not bad" only to realize it was one of three servings.  How one cookie can get away with being technically 3 servings, I don't know.  Speaking of the ridiculousness of serving sizes, allow me this opportunity to share one of my favorite stand-up bits:

Calories

The single most important thing when it comes to losing weight.  Probably why it's the easiest thing to find to read on the label.  I've got no complaints about this one.  But just because something is dense in calories doesn't mean you can't eat it, even if you're looking to lose weight.

Protein

Probably the second most important thing when it comes to fat loss.  Assuming you're looking to retain your muscle, that is.  (Probably something you'd want to do)

Sugar

I mean, I guess it's cool to know how much sugar is in whatever you're buying.  It's probably surprising to see how much is in some products.  The more sugar, the quicker it will likely digest, the less satiating it will probably be.  But, again, if you're looking to lose weight, you can still eat this if it's within the more important calorie range.  That's certainly more realistic than Harper's advice to not buy it if it's a main ingredient.  Guess we all should stop eating apples.  (Oh wait, you're supposed to eat those Every. Single. Day.  I'M SO CONFUSED HARPER.)

Roughly 76% sugar here. (Well, 100% if you consider the fact that all carbohydrates become simple sugars eventually) Image from prevention.com

Sodium

Unless you have a blood pressure issue, there isn't much of a reason to be super concerned with how much sodium you're taking in.  There are much more important things to concern yourself over if you're struggling to lose fat.  Sodium may increase your water retention which will make the scale number fluctuate annoyingly, but that's really not the best metric to use, as I'm sure you've heard a million times.  Drink enough water and you'll be fine.

Fat / Trans fats 

I like that Harper says fat is not a bad thing - there is still a sense out there of the fat-phobia left over from the 90's.  Fat doesn't make you fat.  It seems people are taking baby steps though and aren't completely ready to relinquish the fear of fat with certain restrictions:   "Unsaturated fats are good, saturated fats bad."  It's time to let go of that last bit of fat fear: saturated fats are fine.  Eat red meat and full-fat dairy if you like them.  You won't clog your arteries or get heart disease from them, it's okay.

However I can't completely say all fats are fine either - there is evidence that trans fats may be harmful in certain amounts.  However I'm not sure I'll ever call them 'demon-spawn' as Harper does.

As well, Harper says not to eat anything that is over 20% fat calories.  I'm sure he doesn't mean one shouldn't have oil or most nuts, but he should really specify that.

Carbs

Yep, carbs are a thing.  They have calories.  If you eat the kind with more fiber, vitamins and minerals, you'll get more fiber, vitamins and minerals if that's your thing.  However Harper has a whole list of kinds of carbs that you cannot eat to lose weight.  Did you know that you absolutely can't have cornmeal or potato starch and stay slim?

Fiber

Generally the more fiber in an item, the more full it will make you feel and as Harper says, probably the less processed it is.  I really enjoy feeling full, so eating vegetables and fruits and Quest Bars and Arctic Zero (completely processed foods that are also completely filling and awesome) is a good idea for me.  However, I also eat lots of things that don't have a ton of fiber, like cake.  Mmmm cake.

Net Carbs

Net carbs is basically this on a nutrition label:

Total Carb grams - Fiber grams = Net carbs

This is because fiber is indigestible, but still counts towards the carb amount on the nutrition label.  I mentioned in my old blog about how food companies are already allowed to reflect this fact in their total calories.  So this is more just a fun fact, not something you really need to pay attention to.

The Ingredient List

Ingredient lists are super helpful when it comes to figuring out exactly what you're putting in your body.  Whether or not long ingredient lists necessarily mean something is bad for your health though is not cut and dry.  There are heavily processed products that can absolutely support a healthy, lean body.  (See Quest Bars, Arctic Zero and the wide variety of protein powders available.) And here's one quote I'm going to go off on a bit of a tangent about:

"For one, if it's got that many ingredients, it's probably incredibly processed - dense in chemicals that Mother Nature never intended you to eat."

Please, what exactly did Mother Nature intend for us to eat?  Did she intend for us to eat Quaker oatmeal for breakfast everyday?  Did she intend for us to domesticate pigs and chickens and eat bacon and eggs regularly?  Did she intend for us to turn the unrecognizable wild banana into the domesticated kind we see in supermarkets today?  Did she intend for people to ever drink tea, or eat horse meat?  Is there any kind of of force, or power, or spirit that has dictated what is 'good' and 'bad' for us, or is it not completely up to us?

Anyway, sorry for that rant, but for some reason it's started to grind my gears whenever people say we weren't 'meant' to eat a certain kind of food item.

Chemicals

I'm going to make a confession.  I am not in any way qualified or knowledgeable in this area to make a good analysis of the chemicals in the list of things to avoid by Harper:

  • Food dyes
  • Aspartame
  • Polysorbate 60
  • Olestra
  • MSG

However, if you're interested, I wouldn't take the book at its word.  Ask your friendly local food safety professional if you want a second opinion.

The "Percent of Daily Values" Section

Helpful section if you're looking to make sure you're getting sufficient vitamins and minerals.  Honestly though, if you're eating a diet that contains fruits, vegetables and animal products of some kind, you're probably getting enough.  Typically your local, fresher, grass-fed type will contain more, but that can get a bit pricey.

Moral:  If you're looking to lose weight, understanding what is in your food is important.  The most important component is the calorie content, followed by protein.  After that things tend to get a bit muddy and open to personal interpretation and preference.

Chapter / Rule 9 - Stop guessing about portion size and get it right - for good

Harper touches on one point that I find interesting about the culture of food in recent years, especially in America.   Portion sizes have gotten much larger - he gives the statistic that at-home meals have increased by 20 to 30 percent over the past 20 years. (20 to 30 percent increase in what he doesn't say.  Calories?  Volume? Plate size?)  Regardless, the size options available at fast food places have certainly increased, and perhaps our expectation of appropriate food volume has with it.

From Gawker

This chapter has 2 techniques to control your portion sizes:

1) Forced Portion Control

Basically the advice of have snacks already partitioned in small sizes so that if you're in a bind you can quickly grab something that isn't super calorie-dense.  I can get on board with that - it makes counting your calories real easy if you're into that kind of thing too.

However, I know that if there are easy things to snack on around the kitchen, there is a high chance that I will snack on them.  So, whatever works for you.

2) "Harpersizing"

Described as "taking advantage of high-fiber, low-calorie foods that fill you up." Basically saying, vegetables have very few calories and are very filling, so you could eat a whole plate, be absolutely stuffed, and still not have eaten much in the way of calories.  I like this idea, and I do it often.  Here is a favorite dinner side dish:

  • Take a shit ton of broccoli florets and lay them on a pan
  • Spray with olive oil
  • Top with seasoning salt, garlic powder and pepper
  • Put in oven on 415 for 15-20 minutes until they're basically totally burnt (Okay, this step is just because I'm weird and like my vegetables burnt to a crisp)

This is paired wonderfully with some responsibly-raised, grass-fed, free-roaming, anti-biotic and hormone-free beef, or cake.

Moral: Controlling your portion sizes is just another way to control your caloric intake.  If you'd prefer a big, huge meal at one point during the day or several small meals throughout the day both are okay.  Oh, and vegetables are filling.

Chapter / Rule 10 - No more added sweeteners, including artificial ones

"You won't psychologically expect supersweet when I'm done with you."

That sounds terrifying.

"You don't have the physiological ammo to "just have a little"."

That sounds inaccurate.

Here's an anecdote.  Take it with a grain of salt:

Before I was doing the "If It Fits your Macros" part of my experiments, I tried avoiding things like chocolate and sweets on a regular basis.  When I did have them, they were in huge quantities I couldn't get enough of.  I scoffed at the idea of anything in 'moderation' - in fact I hated that term.  I couldn't fathom people not desiring huge quantities of sweets if they ever got their hands on some.

Enter IIFYM.  I would have bits of chocolate or sweets on a daily basis.  Shortly after, 2 squares of dark chocolate was enough.  I could eat that and be satisfied.  I think I 'get' what people meant by moderation now.

So, perhaps you don't feel like you don't have the 'physiological ammo' for moderation because you...don't eat stuff in moderation.

Anyway, that's my 2 cents on that subject.  We don't have any studies to analyze here about whether or not that's backed up with data.

Harper, going off of a previously de-bunked idea of certain foods causing weight gain more than others independent of their caloric content, says that sugar will make you gain weight more than fat will.  Yes, over the decades our consumption of carbohydrates (and thus, sugar) has gone up, but much more importantly our consumption of just straight-up calories has gone up even more.

He then states his plan is based around low-sugar fruits.  Uhh...what is a low-sugar fruit, exactly?  Look at the nutrition for an apple like I listed above.  Same thing for berries.  Low relative to what?

Any splenda or other artificial sweeteners in your coffee or tea?  NOPE DO THAT AND YOU'LL JUST BINGE ON TWINKIES LATER BECAUSE YOU'RE ADDICTED TO SUGAR.  Or something like that.

Moral: Sugar usually means a less-satiating food.  (Exceptions, obviously include things like fruit.) Avoiding sugar typically means you're avoiding excess calories, which is what leads to weight loss.  However, you are fully capable of exercising moderation if you so choose.

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A few things have changed from my last super-positive and optimistic post about my new 'counting calories' diet regime.

First, and most importantly, I gained weight.

Well, at first anyway.  I did in fact get down to 160 from 163, but then promptly went back up to 164.  I won't deny it, I was greatly upset.  I felt like a hack, and a failure.  Even worse, a hack and a failure who had to post about how she was a hack and a failure on the internet.  Oh the humanity.

The shame

The shame

Let's ignore how when I looked in the mirror I swore I looked leaner.  Or that when I tried to demonstrate how a pair of shorts didn't fit me anymore, magically they fit me.  Or that I knew I was in a caloric deficit and, seriously, you can't gain fat in a caloric deficit.

Let's also ignore that, aside from my neurosis over the scale, I was pretty happy.  I was enjoying food.  All kinds of food.  I was eating a substantial amount of carbohydrates and protein consistently for the first time in...I dunno.  I hit a couple PR's in the gym.  Forget all that.

THE SCALE WENT UP - REMEMBER WHAT'S REALLY IMPORTANT HERE.

(just so no one is confused, the above sentence is sarcastic) And, actually, I did go back down to 162ish after a few days.  But even typing out how much I weighed just sounds vapid to me now.

Anyway, thankfully I took some pictures.  For full disclosure, for 5 days prior to this I was testing out a program my gym will be offering.  The diet part included a super-duper low carb meal plan.  I was eating around 1800 calories per day, which was about the same as I was doing before.  However, I did lose about 4 pounds.  Don't worry I've gained all but one of those pounds back since.

8-24-13

Taken this past weekend

 

Before (After 'Clean Eating' Phase)

Before (After 'Clean Eating' Phase)

So, not a ton of progress, as we can see.  But, definitely got a little leaner around my stomach.  Progress?

Should I Trust the Process?

It's hard to say whether or not I've made any positive impact on my body composition when the pictures are so small in difference and the main metric I used last year - the scale - isn't changing like it did.  I always say that the scale is useless and yet when it comes to applying that knowledge to myself, I am struggling.  Partly because part of my goal was to compete in the sub-148's, but also partly because I don't want to fool myself.

It really is rather absurd, however, that a little number carries so many of our emotions with it.  How petty.

Cutting it Short

Unfortunately, whether I wanted to trust the process or not, I'm cutting this little experiment short, for a few reasons:

1) I have a Powerlifting competition coming up in November and potentially December and I don't want to suck.

2) I'm feeling a little burnt out of thinking about food and dieting so damn much.  Seriously, it's exhausting sometimes.

So, in all likelihood I won't be picking this back up again until January or so.  (DID SOMEONE SAY NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTION???)  (No, because I think that's silly)

In a way, this makes me feel like a failure.  A failure on the internet.  But I think it's best for me right now.  The little bit of shame I get from the proclamation is outweighed by the relief I feel.

I will be continuing to count calories, but not as stringently as I was, and I probably will keep it around 2,200 rather than 1,800 - 2,000 depending on if I get morbidly obese or not.  I'll still take pictures intermittently, but I probably won't be posting them.  Speaking of counting calories, here's my overall impression:

Pros

  • No 'rules' on what you can and can't eat
  • Can reasonably eat out at restaurants
  • Always knowing you're getting adequate protein

Cons

  • Counting calories can be really annoying sometimes
  • Counting calories is basically never 100% accurate
  • Many of the better local restaurants don't have nutrition information.

Well that's the end of my little post on insecurity.  On the plus side think of how much more intellectual focus I'll have now that I can divert to more useful projects, like MSPainting all over Pinterest posts and bashing critiquing Bob Harper!

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So after my post regarding Pinterest (which is actually by far my most viewed post - thank you for the support everyone!), I did go ahead and make a Pinterest account.  I've been intermittently posting things, though I'm far from consistent.  At first I tried to look at popular posts on the Health & Fitness board and repost the ones that were good, or repost them with things to look out for in the comments.

While doing this, I also took screen caps of some of the more...ridiculous, harmful or misleading ones.  I made some comments on those too.  Enjoy!

I too enjoy doing tricep extensions with 2lb weights while looking contemplative.

I too enjoy doing tricep extensions with 2lb weights while looking contemplative.

THECUPCAKEISTHATWAY

Good Lord I hope nobody actually sees themselves this way.

Good Lord I hope nobody actually sees themselves this way.

EVERYTHING IS ABOUT WAIST WHITTLING THAT SOUNDS PAINFUL.

EVERYTHING IS ABOUT WAIST WHITTLING THAT SOUNDS PAINFUL.

Also, please stop with this 'thigh gap' bullshit please.

Also, seriously stop with this 'thigh gap' bullshit please.

WTF ARE YOU CIRCLING PT1

WTF ARE YOU CIRCLING PT1

NO SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU CIRCLING PT2

NO SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE YOU CIRCLING PT2

7000 Jumping Jacks give you fancy lingerie, who knew?!

7000 Jumping Jacks give you fancy lingerie, who knew?!

Yep, pretty sure those dumbbells are in the negative pound range.

Yep, pretty sure those dumbbells are in the negative pound range.

Whew.  Okay.  Glad to get that off of my chest.  I promise to have an actual substantial post later this week!

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This week's post is less of a splattering of information and more of an open-ended question.  I'm not going to pretend like I have the answer to this.  In fact, part of the point I think is that the answer will be different for everyone.  And I want to hear those!

The question is, in its most basic form: When is it okay for someone to desire to lose fat?

Let me elaborate on that a little bit.  This is a question that's been mulling over in my head for a while now.  Since writing this article, in fact.  I've recently been reading a lot from several people in the fitness industry who focus on body acceptance and trying to undo some of the neurosis people feel over food.  (If you're curious, it has primarily been from GoKaleo, FitMamaTraining and EatMore2WeighLess.  There is certainly a lot of thought-provoking information there.)

I like the message of these women, and it also just so happens to jive with the "eat whatever I want kinda" part of my diet right now.  (I'll have some updates on that next week)  I've known plenty of people who have gone really far with their diets, to the detriment of social lives, relationships, and performance in sports / everyday life.  I've gone off the deep end when it comes to how I treat food quite a few times in my life, so many of these stories really resound with me. (Obviously the following questions do not apply to people who need to lose fat / gain fat for health reasons, such as the unhealthily obese or someone who is severely underweight / anorexic.  I'm talking about all of us in between.)

I also whole-heartedly agree that there's no need to aspire to look like a model or <insert really lean / thin person here>.

Whether it's 'fatspo' 'fitspo' or 'thinspo' they're all basically the same.

Whether it's 'fatspo' 'fitspo' or 'thinspo' they're all basically the same.

I agree that chronic dieting is a generally bad thing, and that being able to enjoy food - all foods - guilt-free is something we should aspire to.

However, what happens when someone reads all that, agrees with it, yeah yeah, that's great - and then still wants to lose fat?

How can you pinpoint whether YOU want to lose fat as a reflection of how you see yourself or whether you want to lose fat because you think you need to look like said fitness models?  And the real question - does it even matter which one it is?

If you feel bad when you look at yourself in the mirror, do you need to work on your self-image and accept who you are as you are, or should you try to lose fat to achieve whatever aesthetic you'd be happy with?  When is the latter an "okay" thing to do?

When is losing fat something to do 'for you' and when is it giving into societal expectations?

Thankfully I was able to articulate these questions to a blogger whose work I've admired for a long time, Leigh Peele.  She had an AMA on Reddit today and I jumped at the opportunity to ask her opinion.

I'll get the conversation started by posting responses from a couple of other users and Leigh herself.  Let me know what you think in the comments below!

LP1 LP2

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Chapter / Rule 5 - Eat 30 to 50 grams of fiber each day

Well this one is easy enough - a brief 3 pages and pretty simple to understand.  Fiber is filling, fiber can slow digestion and generally is found in foods you'll want to be eating anyway.  (Fruits and vegetables, that is)

Those are enough reasons to be eating fiber right there.  Bam, done.  However, probably to take up some space, he goes on to talk about other health benefits to fiber: lessen the risk of certain cancers, decreases cholesterol and prevent onset of type 2 diabetes.

The issues with the study he cites to back up these claims is the same issue we run into with studies from previous chapters.  Correlation does not mean causation.  The study used 7-day food records to determine a participant's general intake of cereal fiber, refined and whole-grains.  They then cross-examined this information with other factors such as fasting glucose and cholesterol.  This is an on-going and long-term study.

Unfortunately, just like with the Nurse's Study we discussed before, asking participants to measure and accurately report their food intake is often very inaccurate and unreliable.  As well, people who are more health-conscious tend to eat more fiber and whole-grains.  This does not mean that fiber and whole-grains are what is causing the decreased chances of cancer or type 2 diabetes.  This also doesn't mean that fiber and whole-grains are what cause the participant to lose or keep a lower BMI.  It could be do a whole host of other lifestyle factors that are outside the scope of the study.

Moral: Fiber can increase satiety, slow digestion and is often found in foods you would want to eat while trying to improve your health.  However, fiber itself is not a magic weight-loss ingredient.  Not everyone does well on the same amounts of fiber, especially those with pre-existing GI issues.

Chapter // Rule 6 - Eat apples and berries every single day.  Every.  Single.  Day!

I haven't even read the chapter yet.  This is just my initial reaction from the title:

"That sounds like bullshit."

Okay, off to read the chapter.  Be right back.

-------------------------

All right, I read the chapter and it's not really as bad as I thought it'd be.  We actually start out quite reasonably:

"[apples and berries] have lots of desirable vitamins, all kinds of micronutrients, and lots of fiber..."

All true.  Apples and berries, among other fruits and vegetables, contain a lot of the above.  That's why they're considered good foods for your overall health and weight loss.

However, why he limits it to apples and berries and not say, apples and grapes or berries and peaches or garlic and cucumbers, I'm not really sure.  He states the reason for apples and berries is due to their high anthocyanin content.  While phytochemicals (what anthocyanin falls under) have been found to be anti-inflammatory, I don't know if that is a good enough reason to deign foods that contain high amounts of it 'non-negotiable' for weight loss.

Other foods that are high in anthocyanin that aren't apples or berries:

  • Eggplants
  • Grapes
  • Red Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Cauliflower
  • Peaches
  • Carrots
  • Black soybeans

Phytochemicals and Watermarks everywherrrrreeee

So why is this chapter not called "Eat Red Cabbage and Carrots every day" or something else?  He mentions a study where participants who ate whole apples before a meal ate 15% less than participants who ate applesauce or fiber-spiked apple juice.  I'll agree that apples are very filling - likely due to their high fiber / water content which tends to get degraded as you mush / liquidate it.  Anecdotally, apples are one of the most filling foods to me.  However you could probably replicate that same study with watermelon or cucumbers or any other high-water, high-fiber food.

Moral: Once again, I agree that eating fruits and vegetables are generally a good idea.  However, to specifically call out apples and berries as THE required food to eat everyday doesn't make sense.  If it's just for the reasons of phytochemicals, any of the other foods listed above would serve just as well.  And again, you could still lose weight without including these in your diet at all.

Chapter // Rule 7 - No carbs after lunch

I vehemently disagree with this rule.  This is a short chapter, and the weak reason he gives for this rule is:

"Carbs are forms of sugar, and sugar cues the pancreas to make more insulin, which in turn triggers appetite.  The later in the day that you consume sugar, the more likely it is that you will get food cravings late at night.  Late-night food cravings are not a good thing!"

Two things,

1) Protein stimulates insulin as much if not more than carbohydrates depending on what is ingested.

2) What makes late-night food cravings any worse than mid-morning food cravings?

I mean by this logic, you really shouldn't have that bowl of oatmeal in the morning because the earlier in the day that you consume sugar, the more likely it is that you will get food cravings early in the day!  Except where Harper is all about him some fruit (sugar) and oatmeal (sugar) in the morning.  So why is late at night so bad?  I would argue if you're going by this logic, late-night food cravings would be better because you could just go to sleep.  If it's mid-day you've got a long ways to go.

I was expecting to read something about how eating carbs at night means that you'll just store the carbs as fat because you'll be going to sleep and not expending any calories to burn it off.  Which is false, you can eat carbs whenever you want, assuming you keep at or below your daily caloric needs.  It's not like you fall asleep and suddenly your body stops working.  Again, protein also raises insulin levels.  This is not a bad thing.  In fact, there is a whole diet regimen out there based around eating all your shitty carbs late at night.

OM NOM NOM NOM

OM NOM NOM NOM

Moral:  It's not when you eat, it's how much you eat.  If you feel like eating a piece of chocolate cake 30 minutes before bed and you are still under your calorie expenditure, you will still lose weight.  Some people will get bad heart burn or acid reflux, but hey, whatever floats your boat.

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So it's been a while since there's been an update on my second diet experiment.  There's a few good reasons for that, but mostly because -

I fell off the wagon.

Big time.

I participated in eating 'clean' for about a month.  Everyday was a struggle to determine whether this particular food item was clean, or what about that food item??  Mentally, it was extremely frustrating for me.  Did you know it's impossible to purchase a chilled tea like anywhere?  Just cold tea.  That's all I wanted.

I was finding more and more excuses to go out to eat (sweet potato fries are clean right...?) and then just say 'fuck it' once I got there.  Then go out for ice cream afterwards.

This all culminated in about a 4-day eating extravaganza: Help Luke's parents move on Thursday and then go eat a bunch of fried seafood, see my brother for the first time in forever and go out to eat, Saturday have a family reunion with roughly 12 kinds of desserts of which I tried them ALL, Sunday eat with my parents for lunch then go out to eat again at night.

Woke up the next day at 163.  Yeeeeeahhhhh.

So that day I decided it's about time to start Phase II, because this 'clean eating' shit just left me frustrated and EXTREMELY annoyed.

Clean Eating Review

Pros:

  • No calorie counting
  • Forces you to eat more fresh foods which allows you to go by satiety signals.
  • Drastically decreased my diet soda intake - even today I'm drinking much less than I was.

Cons:

  • Clean DOESN'T MEAN ANYTHING
  • If you are going out to eat, you either have to be that really annoying person who orders very specialized meals or just concede yourself to 'cheating.'
  • A lot of not 'clean' foods have no good reason to not be eaten
  • In my opinion, promotes an unhealthy relationship with food

Onto Calorie Counting

Started counting my calories and tracking food in earnest last Monday the 22nd.  In general my nutrition goals for right now are:

  • ~2000 calories per day
  • 160g protein at least
  • ~65g fat
  • ~200g carbohydrates (whatever remains after protein / fat)

This is actually a ton of food when I am counting it all up.  If you had asked me if I could lose weight during my experiment last year at 2000 calories I would have laughed.  I was only eating 1200 - 1600 then.  That was only something I could achieve with intermittent fasting.  Surprisingly, so far I have been steadily dropping weight.  I'm already back down to 160 as of this morning.

The best part is how my relationship with food has changed.  Nothing is off-limits.  In fact, even though in my head I say "I could really have a cookie if I wanted to right now and it would be okay," I often don't.

Except for today.  Today I ate a cookie.  WITH NO GUILT AT THAT!

Except for today. Today I ate a cookie. Ain't even guilty about it.

Seriously, a couple of times I've been at the end of the day and still needing to eat 200 - 300 calories, and have thought to myself "ugh...I really don't want to make or eat anything else."  I forced my way through a greek yogurt / protein powder combo yesterday.  IT WAS AWESOME.  Going from feeling constantly deprived to feeling like the last thing I want to do is eat more is so mind-boggling to me - it's incredibly exciting.

So seriously, if you feel like your relationship with food is not a positive or fun one, I encourage you to give counting calories and macros a try for just a little while.  It can be a little annoying to look up the information on everything - especially when you're making recipes - but just remember it doesn't have to be 100% perfect.  Experimenting is a wonderful thing.

P.S.  You can follow EXACTLY what I am eating everyday on myfitnesspal!

P.P.S. Once I've been doing calorie counting for a month I'll have some pictures.  I looked absolutely no different when I took pictures for the end of Phase I so I didn't bother posting.  No one needs that many pictures of me. 

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This post was mainly inspired by an article I read in the latest issue of Health magazine - but it's also from the million of articles I've seen around the internet about how to burn calories in your daily activities.

Hiking - Cover

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), pg. 40

Want to buff up?  Slim down!  ...Wait what?

During your hike why not do some lunges up the mountain top to get that metabolism running?  While spending time with family and friends at the pool, why not get in a great calorie burn?  Take dancing lessons with your partner - you'll get fit together!  Getting some serious work or studying done?  Why focus on actually accomplishing something when you could be doing these sneaky ab exercises?

Maybe this sounds like great motivation for getting more activity and healthy movement into your life.  But tell me what you think about this proposition:

Alternatively, why not go for a hike because you want to enjoy the great fucking outdoors?  Why not actually enjoy time with family and friends at the pool instead of anxiously trying to get a calorie burn to assuage the guilt of that lemonade?  Why not take dance lessons with your partner so that you have something to relate about and bond over?  WHY DOES EVERYTHING HAVE TO BE ABOUT BURNING CALORIES?!

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

Taken from Health Magazine (July-August 2013), Pg. 43

I'm trying to think of a caption to appropriately encapsulate how ridiculous this is, but I'm finding myself at a loss.

I'm going to take this a step further.  Why not sprint because running fast feels like you're fucking flying?  Why not pick up ultimate frisbee because it's amazingly fun?  Why not lift weights because you'd like to play airplane with your kid without throwing out your back?

If you've reduced the activities in your life into ways that you can justify eating food or try to cancel out something you feel guilty about, you're destroying the point.  Try to enjoy what you're doing for the sake of doing it - not because you feel like you need to look better in a bikini or you feel like you need to earn some birthday cake you're going to eat later that week.  Is that living?  Is that mentally healthy?

I'm a personal trainer and oftentimes I work to try and help people lose weight.  We also exercise together with the best jump ropes - so maybe it's a bit odd to hear from me that I would really like to get people to get away from associating exercise with burning calories and losing weight.  Exercise because you want your body to perform better, not just because you want to lose fat.  If the only reason you're working out is for the latter reason, you'll end up sorely disappointed - not to mention missing out on some INCREDIBLE benefits of working out that don't involve fitting into skinny jeans.

I wish I could start this post with more inspiring news than 'nothing has changed.'  Unfortunately, reporting anything other than complete and utter lack of any progress would involve a lot of creative truth-bending.

I'm about 1 month into this process.  I've done pretty well on a few fronts - taking a multi-vitamin and fish oil 3 times a week, drastically cutting my diet soda intake close to zero, and actually exploring a few new food options.  (Tea, nectarines and apricots, as I have discovered, are delicious)

However, as noble as these small changes are, they circumvent the problem I have of just eating too much to lose weight.  This is where my post from last week about learning my hunger cues is supposed to come into play.  I just don't have it down yet - I think in this regard my previous experience with intermittent fasting has actually done me a disservice.  It's really easy to just not eat for a period of time, then eat basically until I can't.  No real hunger cues aside from 'if you eat another bite, you're probably going to regret it in about 30 seconds.'  That one is pretty easy to listen to.

I'm realizing I should have thought this part through much more than I did before beginning.  I was feeling pretty arrogant after my last successful attempts, and thought I could just go for it.  What I didn't take into account is that 'eating clean' is a fairly new concept for me to implement into my life, as well as the concept of listening to my stomach.  It was pretty foolish to assume that I could just adopt a ton of changes at once seamlessly and flawlessly.  I may be a 'fitness professional,' but that doesn't mean I find this stuff easy to follow either.

(Funny aside - every client that I've spoken to about how much I miss Diet Coke (oh God do I miss diet soda) has seemed surprised and even a bit appalled that I of all people have a problem with something generally deemed 'unhealthy.'  It blows my mind that people see me in a light of a super-healthy person, or someone who simply follows good eating dogma with no problems.  And of course always finds exercise enjoyable and easy.)

On that happy note, here is my lack of progress in numerical and visual form:

WLC3

photo 1 photo 2 photo 3 photo 4

On Cheating

People often ask me what I do for 'cheat days' when dieting.  I don't really like that concept in general.  To me it speaks of tight restriction for most of the week, with one day where you just bomb out and really let loose.  Scheduling in a 'fuck it' day doesn't seem like a healthy, sustainable, long-term plan to me.  What if you go out for a friend's birthday on a Wednesday, but your cheat day is Saturday?  What if it's your anniversary the same week as Christmas?  What if you're on a 3-day vacation? Etc, etc.

Basically I try to make the process as stress-free as possible.  When an occasion arises where I will probably need to off-track my diet a tad, I simply do so.  When nothing particularly special is happening, I don't.

Now, this works for me because I don't have the world's most active social life, so typically this evens out to two or three less-than-ideal meals per week.  If you have social events every night of the week, this probably wouldn't work so well.

Just because it works for me (well, at least for maintaining weight!) doesn't mean it will work for you - I'm just hoping to give you some good ideas.

Thanks for reading, as always leave me any questions or comments below!

2 Comments

When you are trying to lose weight on a diet that doesn't involve counting calories, it's important to be in tune with your hunger cues.

Unfortunately, I don't think my stomach and I have been talking for a while.  I'm pretty sure I know what hungry feels like, I'm not quite sure if I know what full feels like.  However, I do know what overstuffed to the point of hating life feels like, and more often than not that's how I gauge my biggest meal of the day.  While this is apparently just fine if I want to maintain my weight:

WL Chart2

MAINTAINING LIKE A BOSS

Obviously my eating habits right now aren't serving my goals so something has to change.  Here is what a usual day of eating typically looks like:

  • Coffee / Tea / Water until anywhere from 12 - 2 PM
  • Lunch is the biggest meal - typically will eat around 80% of whatever I'm eating that day then.
  • Coffee / Water / Tea / maybe an apple until anywhere from 7:30 - 9:00 PM
  • Something small like a smoothie or greek yogurt

If I wasn't trying to lose weight, I'd probably just keep this up.  It's clearly working from a maintenance point of view, but I need to learn to control what I do at lunch.  If I'm honest, it does bother me that I want something like 1,000+ calories to feel 'satisfied' at a meal.  That's definitely going to be past the point where I should stop feeling hunger and achieve sweet, sweet satiety.  To that extent, I've already implemented a couple changes:

  1. Eat most of my meals at home at the table instead of on the couch.
  2. Take a multi-vitamin / fish oil at least 4 days a week.
  3. Drink more water with meals
  4. Try to remember to put down the damn fork between bites

Past that, just trying to be more 'present' while I'm eating.  Trying to actually appreciate and taste the food instead of wolfing it down.  Most importantly, learn to be happy and comfortable being just slightly full, not stuffed.  That is going to be a tough one for me.  I failed absolutely miserably at it yesterday!

WHAT THE HELL IS CLEAN EATING UPDATE

I was complaining to one of my clients about how 'eating clean' doesn't actually mean anything, so she was kind enough to loan me a copy of a book called "The Eat-Clean Diet" by Tosca Reno, as well as an issue of Clean Eating Magazine.  I read through both of these rather quickly, because for some reason when I read things that I disagree with vehemently, it usually inspires me to read more.  If I'm going to dislike something, I usually like to be able to really thoroughly tell you why.  (This may or may not be why I know way too much about the Twilight series storyline)

Here are the laws of eating clean according to Clean Eating magazine:

photo (1)

If you read through my weight loss journey last year - or you could infer my eating schedule above - you know that I tend to not follow rule #1 exaaaaactly right.  As well, I'm pretty cool with saturated fat.  You should be too.  Which made this my favorite quote from the Eat-Clean book:

I know right??? BACON AND SAUSAGE IS SOOOO GROSS - especially compared to plain oatmeal.

Okay, I can't just be a negative Nancy and bash these two publications.  After all, some of the rules from the magazine (avoid processed and refined foods, slow down and savor, reduce portion sizes) are all things I just said I'm trying to work on.  But come on now, don't try to tell me bacon and sausage doesn't taste good.

I'm coming to realize I probably should have planned this whole 'clean eating' thing out a bit better.

You may have noticed that I've always included 'clean' in quotations - I've always thought the notion was a bit odd.  But the idea that I would have NO FREAKING IDEA what makes a food clean or not didn't occur to me.  I assumed it would be like the old saying regarding pornography "I can't quite explain it, but I know it when I see it."

Unfortunately, that is not the case.  I've come across way too many definitions and way too many food items that don't seem to fit in a clear category.  Let's take some examples of what 'clean eating' is from various people:

"If you don't recognize the ingredients, don't eat it"

Well, being a person who is very interested in nutrition, some of the more mystifying ingredients are things I'm actually familiar with.  Xanthan Gum?  Sure got some in the cabinets.  Citric Acid?  Yeah it's in most fruits.  Dextrose?  Mmmm sugarrrr.  So for some foods that would most definitely not be considered 'clean,' this strategy doesn't work.  Not to mention several items I can think of (such as PB2) that have simple ingredients, but are most definitely processed.

"If it has a nutrition label, don't eat it."

Bottled water has a nutrition label.  A lot of meats have nutrition labels.  I can buy a bag of apples that have a nutrition label on it.  Steel-cut oats have labels...etc.

"If it was made in a plant, processed or manufactured, don't eat it."

What about coconut flour?  Almond flour?  Even wheat flour?  Besides fresh produce, I don't know how many foods fit under this definition.  Most meats were processed through a factory of some sort.  Your albacore didn't jump out of the ocean into a tin.  How much process is too much process?  Bringing up the previous example of PB2, the process is pretty simple - they press the roasted peanuts to get the oil out so most fat content is removed.  Is that too much of a process?  Which brings me to the next point -

"If a process was done to remove nutrition from the product, don't eat it."

What about skim milk?  1% milk?  Pasteurized milk at all?  0% Greek yogurt?  Peeled shrimp?  Peeled oranges?

"If your ancestors didn't recognize it, don't eat it." 

I'm pretty sure our ancestors didn't recognize the modern-day banana.  Or peanut butter.  Or almond milk...etc.

Ahhhhhhhhhhhgh!

If you couldn't tell, I've had a frustrating week of eating.  Here are some items on my list of contention.  I have down the big ticket items, but I'd like to hear any input as well:

1) Quest Bars - I've given this a tentative no.  Big hit to my pre / post workout / dessert / anytime, really snacks.

2) Greek Yogurt / Dairy in general - I've been eating this, and I'm pretty sure I'll continue to include it.

3) Dark Chocolate - I might just need to include this for my sanity.

4) Almond Milk - I LOVE almond milk, but there is no doubt it's been processed.  But is it too much processing?! WHO THE HELL KNOWS.

5) Protein Powder - I'm eating all of this anyway, processed or no.  Like 25% of my protein intake consists of protein powder, and I am unwilling to give it up!

ProteinPowder

Not pictured: 2 other bins - totaling 10 bins of protein powder between me and Luke. <insert some bro joke here>

Incidentally, there is also another Layne Norton video that talks about basically the experiment I'm about to do: clean eating vs. calorie and macronutrient counting.

Personally, I like his definition of 'clean' food best: food you spray with windex before you eat it.

Anyway, I've basically come to the conclusion that the phrase 'clean eating' means absolutely NOTHING definitive.  I suppose it's just a way for people to have a new buzzword for eating healthy.

But even 'healthy' is a word that's up for debate.